BROOKLYN, Mich. — The overwhelming consensus in the NASCAR garage is that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is on the verge of winning a Sprint Cup race.
And even though his winless streak reached 143 races last Sunday at Pocono, Earnhardt hasn’t tired of the questions about when he might win his next race.
“I don’t feel like you guys (reporters) have asked the question too many times, because I think that if you weren’t asking that kind of question, I’d be a little worried that nobody gives a dang when you’re going to win,” Earnhardt said.
“And then not too many people are paying attention to you or following you. So that’s a good thing in a way and we’ll just keep going. We’re getting close and we’ve got speed and we’ve just got to put it together to win races.”
Earnhardt had a car capable of winning at Pocono, but crew chief Steve Letarte made a conservative decision — which his driver supported — to bring Earnhardt to pit road rather than to gamble on fuel mileage. Earnhardt finished eighth and gained a spot to second in the series standings.
That race, however, showed Jeff Gordon just how close to winning his Hendrick Motorsports teammate is.
“To me, up until last week, I felt like they were a team that was just strong and consistent and doing a great job, but not really a team that showed they really had what it took to win,” Gordon said Friday before Cup practice at Michigan. “Last week they showed by dominating that race that they really stepped up their game this year and have a real legitimate shot at winning races.
“And I think, in order to win the championship — I know we say, ‘Oh, you don’t have to win’ — but I feel like you do kind of have to win. Somewhere throughout the season, you need to win and show that you’re capable of doing that. And I think they showed me some great strides and steps last week, which I think makes them a lot more legitimate and real contenders.”